I’m staring hard at the end of next week, because that’s when vacation starts for me at the orthodontist’s office, and I seriously don’t know if we’re going to make it. My friend and boss is at the end of her rope, her nerves are frayed, and she’s tired and depressed. She’s also very happy. It’s a confusing time: her mother passed away after a very, very long agony, and her daughter had her first baby.

Agony is an odd word. In Ancient Greece, a public gathering was called agon. Since the Greeks placed a high value on sports and athletic competition, there were almost always athletic events at gatherings on festival days. The struggle to win the prize in such contests came to be called agonia. This term came also to be used for any difficult physical struggle and then for the pain that went with it—physical or mental. Our English word agony, meaning “intense pain of mind or body,” thus comes from a word that used to mean a happy celebration. The dictionary says agony means: 1a :  intense pain of mind or body:  anguish, torture; b:  the struggle that precedes death. In this case, agony would mean the long struggle that preceded death – (although she died very peacefully in her sleep).

And then a week later, her daughter gave birth and my boss became a grandmother for the first time. So you can see that there is a lot of strong emotions going on. Add to that the fact that she (my boss) is a very strong woman who refuses to ask for help from anyone and does everything by herself, including making sure her mother was always well cared for by capable people ’round the clock for a whole year, then organizing the funeral and emptying out her apartment – well, you can see where she is exhausted. So vacation can’t come fast enough this year.

I sort of wish that she would break down and ask for some help. I know it’s satisfying to do everything on your own, but it’s also nice to have some help. On the other hand, when you do everything by yourself, you can take pride in everything you do. You can also put on a martyred air and say “no one helps me.” But that only works if you have actually asked for help or if you have family and friends sensitive enough to understand when you need help. So far, I’ve been lucky. When I need help, someone is usually there to lend a hand. Husband, kids, friends – everyone is willing and able. I don’t think I’m the type to avoid asking people for help, and I like to feel useful. People accept my help when I offer it, and they offer it to me freely. The other day I left a store and was struggling to carry three oddly-shaped bags that were not so much heavy as they were unmanageable. I’d barely gone twenty paces when  woman asked me if she could help carry my bags. I didn’t have far to go (only two blocks) and I was happy to let her take a bag. She even gave it back to me when we reached my door (ha ha).

So where was I going? Oh yes – heading to vacation. It can’t come soon enough. But when it does, and I’m not working, if anyone needs any help, I’m here – just give me a call! I love to help.